How to be a terrible client

Some clients are better than others. Some are truly awful. Here are a few secrets of the world’s worst clients:

1. Never praise the agency – even if the team does a good job, don’t give any positive feedback – they’ll only go soft. Far better to maintain a dissatisfied scowl so the agency redoubles its efforts to please you. Even if they’re exceeding expectations, don’t let on that you’re pleased. In fact, give them a kick occasionally to keep them honest.

2. Don’t set targets – no doubt you’ll have your own KPIs but don’t let the agency know them since they’ll just stop as soon as they’ve been reached. Better to keep them guessing and on their toes.

3. Demand constant attention – the squeakiest hinge gets the most oil, so demand time beyond your budget. What’s the agency going to do? Say no and risk losing your account?

4. Never make up your mind – ask for options, ask for ideas, ask for timelines and plans, but never feedback on any of them or set a clear course of action. What if you’re wrong? You might get blamed – no, far better to spend time considering your options. Remember a campaign’s a journey not a destination.

5. Brief light, brief late – the agency prides itself of being proactive and moving quickly, so you can afford to go to the wire before bringing them into the loop.

6. Delegate the bottom of your to do list – yup, good to find a home for all those stinkers which have been hanging around for so long.

7. Maintain radio silence – they’ll find you if it’s urgent.

8. Pass the blame – the agency is there to make you look good. As long as they do that, fine, but if things go badly, don’t forget they’re there to take the fall too.

9. Make sure you are the single point of contact – then you can control exactly what they do and what they know. They’ll just get confused otherwise.

10. Pay late – best to hold back in case something goes wrong, then you’ve got plenty of leverage. Better that the money’s in your account than the agency’s – their fees are too high anyway. As for that renewal contract – now there’s something we can drag out since they’ll probably ask for a bigger budget, and meanwhile they’re busting a gut to please. Perfect.

If you follow these simple rules, you’ll be the terror of your agency – and get the most bangs per buck, no doubt.

UPDATE – Chris Lewis has kindly posted a reverse guide – How to be a great client. I’m often asked by clients, what makes one client better than another – and here’s a great place to start.